As survivors, we are encouraged to speak out against domestic violence (I scream against it) and share ways we overcame with those who come after us, trying to help them navigate through the pain, trauma, and often unfairness of our legal and justice systems. As a member of numerous private groups on Facebook, safety is often found by sharing the pain and details of the injustices done to victims and survivors alike. Group members feel safe opening up to seek answers and comfort. 

Before I share an experiment I ran on Facebook to test data exposure, I want you to watch this preview of a documentary called, “The Social Dilemma.” It’s on Netflix so for those of you who can, I HIGHLY recommend watching it, especially if you are a heavy social media user. If you have kids, I recommend it even more.

Before I share an experiment I ran on Facebook to test data exposure, I want you to watch this preview of a documentary called, “The Social Dilemma.”

It’s on Netflix so for those of you who can, I HIGHLY recommend watching it, especially if you are a heavy social media user.

If you have kids, I recommend it even more.

CLICK THE VIDEO IMAGE TO WATCH THE TRAILER ==>

THE FACEBOOK EXPERIMENT

For many, having your lives controlled and your devices and whereabouts constantly monitored is a horrifying reality. What if all those secrets shared in those private Facebook groups got out? 

I decided to run a little experiment on Facebook and see what sort of information they stored about my activity. As a former victim of domestic violence myself, I wanted to see it from the perspective of whether or not an abuser who had gained access to my account could see the activity in the private groups for which I belonged and participated. How much could my abuser see? How much danger could I be in? I started by using these steps from a computer, not a mobile device (you can do this in your own account, but if you think your devices are being tracked, find a different device):

STEP 1: LOG INTO YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

In the upper right corner, you’ll see an upside-down triangle. When you mouse over it, you’ll see the words “Account” come up.

Facebook Header

Click on the triangle.

Click account settings on Facebook header

STEP 2: SETTINGS & PRIVACY

Your account navigation will appear. Click on the Settings and Privacy section where I show with the pointer hand.

Facebook Settings and Privacy

STEP 3: YOUR FACEBOOK INFORMATION

On the left in your settings menu, click on Your Facebook Information.

Facebook Information

STEP 4: DOWNLOAD YOUR INFORMATION

Click the “View” link to the right of “Download Your Information” to see the categories available for download. Hold on to your seats because the next part might (and should) horrify you.

Facebook View Data to Download

STEP 5: DOWNLOAD YOUR INFORMATION

Choose what files and activity you wish to see. I want you to look carefully at the categories listed. If you can’t read them clearly, around the image is a full list with descriptions (click on the image to see a larger version).

Marketplace
Your activity on Marketplace

Payment History
A history of payments you’ve made through Facebook

Saved Items and Collections
A list of the posts you’ve saved, and your activity within collections

Your Places
A list of places you’ve created

Apps and Websites
Apps and websites you log into using Facebook and apps you admin

Other Activity
Activity associated with your account, such as Pokes given and received

Facebook Gaming
Your profile for Facebook Gaming

Interactions
Actions you’ve taken on Facebook

Trash
Items you have moved to trash

Archive
Items you have moved to archive

Short Videos
Your activity with short videos on Facebook

Accounts Center
Accounts you added to Accounts Center

News
Your profile information for Facebook News

THE LIST:

Pay close attention to the ones highlighted in red, as these are the categories most likely to hold the most sensitive data. When they say “Groups,” it includes closed and private groups and all of your activity within those groups.

Posts
Posts you’ve shared on Facebook, posts that are hidden from your timeline and polls you have created

Photos and Videos
Photos and videos you’ve uploaded and shared

Comments
Comments you’ve posted on your own posts, on other people’s posts or in groups you belong to

Likes and Reactions
Posts, comments and Pages you’ve liked or reacted to

Friends
The people you are connected to on Facebook

Stories
Photos and videos you’ve shared to your story

Following and Followers
People, organizations or business you choose to see content from, and people who follow you

Messages
Messages you’ve exchanged with other people on Messenger

Groups
Groups you belong to, groups you manage and your posts and comments within the groups you belong to

Events
Your responses to events and a list of the events you’ve created

Profile Information
Your contact information, information in your profile’s About section, your life events, hobbies and music

Pages
Pages you are the admin of, and pages you’ve recommended

Campus
Your campus activity and data.

Rewards
Your activity on Rewards

Journalist Registration
The information you provided to verify your status as a journalist
Information About You

Ads and Businesses
Ad topics that are relevant to you, advertisers who have collected information directly from you, information you’ve submitted to advertisers and your interactions with businesses and organizations you visit off of Facebook.

Search History
A history of your searches on Facebook

Location
Information related to your location

About You
Information associated with your Facebook account

Security and Login Information
A history of your logins, logouts, periods of time that you’ve been active on Facebook and the devices you use to access Facebook.

Your Topics
A collection of topics determined by your activity on Facebook that is used to create recommendations for you in different areas of Facebook such as News Feed, News and Watch

Voice Recording and Transcription
A history of your voice recording and transcription on Facebook

STEP 6: THE ALERTS

When you click “Create File,” your only choices are HTML or JSON which means you don’t get a nice little folder with all your information delivered in a way most users can do anything with, but a file with a way to see what all your activity includes.

Definition of JSON

  (More info – https://www.w3schools.com/whatis/whatis_json.asp)

You’ll see a message that looks like this…

Then you’ll receive an email that looks like this:

Facebook email download request acknowledgement

STEP 7: THE WAITING GAME

My confirmation email came and it looked like this:

Facebook Download email link

STEP 8: DOWNLOAD THE FILE

When I logged back into my account, there was a notification that my file was ready for download.

I followed steps 1 – 4 above, then saw where the download was available.

Facebook Download in settings

I clicked on the tab labeled, “Available Copies 1” and was prompted to add my password to download the 2.68 GB file (yes, that’s large – too big for your phone).

Facebook Download

I also noticed that there was a link where you could just access your information without downloading it, eliminating the whole email alert part, but also making it dangerous for an abuser to gain visibility without you being alerted to the fact they were looking.

Facebook view data without download

When you “Access the Information” without downloading, this is what you see. Pay particular attention to the “Groups” section. When you expand that, it shows every comment, post, like, love… EVERYTHING  done in public groups and CLOSED/PRIVATE GROUPS!

Facebook viewable information

By now you probably guessed why I call this post, “Trapped In A Sharing Dilemma.” We need to share and with COVID keeping us away from being around others, social is the way we’re doing it. But know the risks.

If you’re going to use a social media platform, here are some words of advice:

  • Passwords are like underwear. They should never be shared and change them often.
  • Set up 2-Factor Authentication for logging into your account. If you do, use a tool like Google Authenticator and not a text message so if your device is being monitored, you can get in without alerting your abuser. (CLICK HERE for set-up instructions)
  • Don’t post information on social media that you wouldn’t want to be leaked out. Social media companies are built to make money selling advertising space and your information is their media kit.
  • Beware of identifying individuals by name who have not been found guilty in a court of law. Why? Because you are potentially putting yourself in a defamation suit that can cost you tens of thousands of dollars whether you are found guilty or innocent. Read our blog here about defamation suits.
  • Seek resources to share that can help you heal, provide legal advice, or help you (and other family/pet members) escape.

Above all, know your risks and make informed decisions accordingly. 

has a great article called, “Using The Internet More Safely” – CLICK HERE to access it.

Do you use WhatsApp? Read this article about BIG changes coming February 8, 2021, and how they also affect your privacy and security.

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